This wasn’t an easy game for Brad Stevens and the Celtics, the final score deceivingly doesn’t tell the entire story. The Heat closed out the opening frame with a 26-18 lead, one that eventually ballooned to a 12-point advantage before the Celtics entered the second half with a newfound identity.
The Celtics’ defense smothered the Heat on three consecutive possessions that triggered a rally, a 9-0 run while Miami found itself in the penalty after picking up four quick fouls in the third quarter’s opening minutes. Jayson Tatum attacked the rim, drained a plethora of free-throws, and extended the Celtics’ run to 20-3.
Boston tacked on 41 third-quarter points. Its lead extended to 19 in the final frame.
Kemba Walker’s Halftime Message
Kemba Walker, who finished with 15 points, 7 assists, rallied his teammates at halftime when the Celtics were trailing the Heat by seven (58-51).
“What I remember of halftime is Kemba (Walker) saying we just need to settle down a little bit,” Brown said. “We all felt the intensity that we all had in the beginning. I don’t think we came out flat. It was different from Game 4 for us. We had the intensity. It was just kind of a little bit all over the place. We had to dial in a little bit. Once we did, I feel like we were fine.”
Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his game-high 31 points in the second half. He relentlessly attacked Miami’s defense and eventually finished the night with 12-of-14 made free-throws to show for it.
“I think we all realized it,” Tatum said about Kemba’s words at halftime. “Everybody was so anxious, eager to make a play; make something happen. Because we know what’s at stake, we lose, we go home. But at the same time, we got to relax a little bit. Take a deep breath, we know how important every possession is but we still have to relax and play the game and that was the message he (Walker) had.”
Brad Stevens: ‘First Practice Was On 9.26.2019, We’ve Been Talking About It Since Then’
For Brad Stevens, it was the defensive effort in the third quarter that made all the difference.
“I just thought we played with great tenacity defensively, and our offense followed suit,” Stevens said Friday night. “But they’re hard. It’s easy for me to sit up and say to be at our very best and get stops on every possession. I mean, this is a heck of an offensive team, a heck of a well-coached team, and hard to guard.”
It seemed to be a concerted effort in the second half to attack the paint more offensively, was there anything talked about at halftime about that?
“What’s today’s date?” Stevens asked, “I think our first practice was on 9.26.2019, we’ve been talking about it since then.”
The Celtics finished with 56 points in the paint, six players scored in double-digits, including Jaylen Brown (28) and Daniel Theis (15 points, 13 rebounds).
“In our huddles, our huddles were great,” Walker said after Friday’s win. “It was a really long game, things aren’t always going to go your way but one thing you can control is your ability to play hard. I thought we did that. We kind of just caught ourselves, settled into the game, started making the right plays at both ends of the floor. Offensively, we just really moved the basketball.
“We made the right pass and guys took the right shot. Yeah, man, it was a great team effort.”